Markers protest at pressure to raise grades

Warwick Mansell

An exam board will hand out top GCSE grades to pupils who do not deserve them, after botching the introduction of a new paper, teachers claimed this week.

Examiners for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance English literature GCSE - one of the country's most popular - say they are struggling to award A* and A grades because pupils answered a poetry question worth more than half the marks so poorly.

They accuse the board of responding by putting pressure on them to mark "less severely".

One marker, who was sacked after being told she was marking too harshly, told The TES: "I think the specification has been cocked up this year and they are trying to sort it out by getting markers to inflate grades."

However, AQA pointed out the grading process always adjusts for the difficulty of a paper.

The claims, made on the TES website, relate to part of the higher tier of a new GCSE, taken by 216,558 pupils. Candidates spend an hour of the one-and-three-quarter-hour paper comparing four poems. Previously, they had an hour for two or three poems.

Although grade boundaries have yet to be finalised, the board tells examiners beforehand the grade they expect a pupil to get for a particular mark. Six markers told the website they found few examples of A-grade work.

Two teachers said the board would ensure pupils got top grades even if their work did not merit them, making the grades "bogus".

Helen Hallett, AQA's head of external relations, said that fewer than 20 examiners out of 399 had complained to the TES website. The board was not far enough through the examining process to have a view of the quality of pupils' answers, she added.

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Warwick Mansell

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